The ringing phone jarred me from my deep involvement in the novel love affair between Ned and Jean.
I had the urge to slam the phone down but it was well out of my reach. I heard Mom pick up the receiver and say hello in her usual sweet tone.
"Well how are you?"
From the sound of her voice I could tell that it was someone whom she hadn't heard from in a long time. By now, my curiosity was aroused and I lay Summer Affair on the windowsill.
I leaned back in my chair, wrapped my hands behind my head and listened to the rest of the phone conversation.
"Well, Todd, we would love to have you but my sister and brother-in-law are coming for the weekend and . . ." Dead silence. Then I heard the phone being put back on the receiver.
Mysterious. I asked, "Who was that?"
Mom slowly walked back into the living room and I could see that she was crying. She sat down on the couch opposite me.
"It was Todd Wright."
"What is he doing in Florida and why are you crying?" I asked, not knowing which was more important for the moment.
She got up and walked toward her bedroom. I started to go after her to find out what was wrong, but I knew that when she was crying she wanted to be left alone, so I walked out on the porch and flopped down on one of the easy chairs.
High in the sky a hawk was circling, swooping, diving and then soaring back into the sky.
• • •
Todd Wright, I thought to myself, and my mind started to drift.
I met Todd years ago. He was working at a rundown apartment complex and since I stopped at a gas station nearby, I would frequently chat with Todd and eventually we became more than speaking acquaintances. I soon found out that his dad had died and that he and a brother were supporting their mother, who had been laid off from her job.
Several times I invited him home with me to have supper, but he always seemed to find a way to escape my invitation. He finally gave in, though, and seemed to enjoy a family meal.
As the summer went on, Todd became a fixture. He was well mannered and before long my mother and dad came to think of him as part of the family. I really liked Todd but I also felt sorry for him. The months flew by. Dad got Todd a new job and there was some quiet talk about sending him to college. When I mentioned it to Dad, he quickly denied it but I could tell from the gleam in his eye that he wasn't telling the whole truth.
Indeed, Todd was enrolled in college the following fall. Dad had paid his expenses for the year and had secured for him a part-time job. After completing his first year, he was offered a full scholarship. Now he was on his own. Todd wanted to repay the money that Dad had given him but when he realized how much it was, it was more that he could afford. He offered Dad a promissory note but Dad refused it, saying, "No Todd, you keep it, you deserve it."
Whenever Todd had a spare moment, he would drop over to see the family. He sent them copies of all his grades, which were met with pride.
Shortly thereafter, I was inducted into the Army. I heard about Todd in letters from my family. Before long, I could tell from the remarks that they didn't hear from him very often. One day, I received a particular letter from Dad.
Todd had graduated from college and hadn't sent Dad an invitation to the ceremony. They didn't even know where he was. It was as if he had disappeared.
A few years passed and I was finally discharged from the Army, and waiting for the fall school semester to roll around.
Todd was almost a memory by this time.
• • •
Sitting on the porch I again saw the hawk as it dove beneath the tops of nearby trees. It appeared a few seconds later with a sparrow grasped tightly in its talons and sped off.
I slowly got up and walked back into the house. Mom was in the living room. Dad had come in while I was on the porch and he had his arm around her.
"Can you tell me now what happened?" I asked.
Dad replied, "You knew that Todd Wright called, didn't you?"
Yes, I remarked quizzically.
"Well, he asked Mother if he could spend a few days with us until he could find a job. When Mom told him that Uncle Lou and Aunt Alice would be here for the week but that we would find a place for him to stay . . ."
But Mom wouldn't let him finish. "I'll tell you what he said," abruptly interrupting and with tears in her eyes. "He said, 'Thanks, thanks a hell of a lot,' and then hung up."
Hal Gens Jr., who lives in Largo, retired from Lockheed Martin in 1992.